What’s the biggest mistake to make after giving birth?
Rushing to lose weight.
It is my biggest pet peeve, as a women, that so many of us feel such intense pressure to look model ready 24/7.
If you don’t like the way you look after spending 9 months growing your baby, I get it. Your body has been completely taken over by the process. It’s not just yours anymore. And if you believe what you see in the media, you’d think that you should have your old body back immediately after your baby is born. That plus the lack of sleep of new motherhood can leave anyone feeling like they aren’t adequate.
But what you see in the media is not reality.
Let me break it down:
Your weight gain during pregnancy consists of this:
Uterus 2 1/2 lb gain
Placenta 1 lb
Mother’s breasts 3 lb gain
Mother’s blood 4 lb increase
Mother’s fat 5 + lb increase
So, most of this weight isn’t even fat! It will come away on its own. You just need to give it time.
Remember too that your core has undergone significant changes. Even if you don’t have a vaginal birth, your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles have a lot of stress just from carrying baby for so long. These muscles and ligaments need time to heal.
Basically, your body needs rest and rehab. I truly believe that every pregnant person should see a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
Rushing into exercise can lead to injury, including pelvic floor complications like incontinence. No physique is worth peeing yourself.
Coming from a kinesiology background and a competitive athlete background I always tell people there is no such thing as over-training its actually under-resting.
Cutting back on calories or “dieting” can be a big problem too. Breast milk production may also be affected, but more often we see exhausted women exhausting themselves even more. Your baby needs you as nourished as possible, that means eating nourishing foods. In nourishing amounts.
Growing your baby took you 9 months, assume it will take at least that long for your body to adjust afterwards.
So, give your body the rest and nourishment it truly needs.
Your body, mind and soul will thank you in the long run.
Think about the last movie you saw that featured someone giving birth. I’m guessing there was a woman screaming, a man freaking out, and a doctor yelling “Push, push push!”
Now tell me how many of your friends are terrified by the thought of giving birth? Maybe you’re included in that group!
Popular culture does a really good job propagating the culture of fear around birth.
And that translates into our everyday lives.
You hear negativity about birth all the time. Even friends who haven’t had kids say things like “oh, you’ll be screaming for the meds” or “are you ready for your body to be destroyed”. Seriously, Sarah heard both of those things while she was pregnant.
I remember in my first maternal and newborn care class, so many of my friends whispered to each other during lecture about how scared they were.
I was scared too - how could I block out all that negativity?
But those lectures taught us about physiology. About how pregnancy is not a medical condition, it’s normal.
This drove me to look further, to learn more.
So, I dove head first into the birth world. Reading books, articles, watching videos. This lead me to a doula training. Everything confirmed what I learned in those first lectures.
Birth doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t even have to be painful!
My education and understanding of physiology took away my fear.
It also got me incredibly excited! I NEEDED to learn how to help parents achieve empowering birth experiences.
Get our Top 5 Tips for LOVING Your Birth!
This lead me to HypnoBirthing. This training taught me techniques that help parents remain calm and relaxed. Techniques that work WITH our physiology, to facilitate empowering birth regardless of circumstances.
How we view things matters.
So, that crazy pop culture birth scenario doesn’t have to be my experience. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s experience.
The more I go to births, the more I see how beautiful these moments could be. Labour can be a sacred space. Parents can connect with each other and welcome their babies into warm, nurturing environments.
All of these experiences have completely change my outlook about birth. Now, I look forward to becoming a mother and naturally birthing my baby. There is no more fear.
The biggest mistake most first time parents make…is that they focus too much on birth preparation and don’t put enough emphasis into what comes after. The 4th trimester can blindside you just as much as an unexpected birth outcome. Put both together, and it can be a serious recipe for overwhelm!
The 4th trimester can blindside you just as much as an unexpected birth outcome.
Now don’t get me wrong, the postpartum period (where you are getting to meet your baby after waiting for so long) IS wonderful and filled with love. It is ALSO commonly filled with anxiety, fatigue, hot flashes, discomfort, mood swings and potentially pain.
This is why at Your Downtown Doula, our birth doulas are still oncall for you 2 weeks postpartum. We will be there for you when your life goes through this big change.
It’s also why we offer visits and classes that aim to educate you before the baby comes, because yes, postpartum brain fog is worse than pregnant brain fog. This way, we can teach you what to expect, what’s normal and what isn’t, and when to reach out to other professionals. This helps you feel confident and prepared for the postpartum period. So you can be resilient through the challenges that come your way, and not crumble under them.
Here is who Your Downtown Doula recommends you work with in the 4th trimester:
(click the links in the headings to be connected with corresponding providers)
WHY? To avoid urinary leaking, pain with sex, to return back to exercise are just some of the reasons. Your pelvic floor did a lot of work during labour and birth, it’s important for you to rehabilitate it appropriately. It’s also still important to see this physiotherapist specialist if you had a c-section.
WHEN? 4-6 weeks after birth
*All of our doulas are naturopathic doctors* WHY? There are a lot of body changes in the postpartum period that you may need additional support for, specifically blood work and follow up care with respect to thyroid, gestational diabetes, anemia, and addressing changes in vaginal or gut flora after antibiotics use in birth. Can also be complimentary support in pediatric and family wellbeing settings- think sleep, food introductions, immune support
WHEN? Ideally ongoing care starting prenatally, and checkups done routinely postpartum
WHY? There are a lot of myths out there regarding baby’s sleep, it’s also an area of common frustration for most parents.
WHEN? Ideally take a class prenatally so you are prepared for what the first few months will bring. Physiologically, you can not start sleep training until the baby is about 4-6 months.
WHY? You may not have family or friends that are close to you, or are able to help. You may also need some assistance overnight if you are solo parenting, or your partner has to sleep full nights due to work obligations. Please note while searching for postpartum doulas there is a difference between night time and day time support, and not all postpartum doulas offer both services.
WHEN? Any time postpartum. Can be immediate or anytime things just feel too overwhelming
WHY? Your brain as parents change! With these neurological changes plus the very real life changes you undergo becoming parents you may need some extra emotional support. Studies also show that the transition to parenthood has a significant impact on your relationship! It is important to learn techniques to communicate with your partner and hold self compassion in these growth heavy times. It is also nice to know you are not alone – parent group therapy is also a great resource.
WHEN? Can be initiated whenever you feel the need to.
WHY? Nursing can take a toll on your body physically, on top of your labour recovery. Holding your baby often may also add to pre-existing low back pain. These professionals can help ease your discomfort.
WHEN? Initiate with any neck/back/chest/shoulder pain that exacerbates with nursing. Or any low back pain.
Are you preparing for your best possible birth?
Keep up to date on all things pregnancy, birth and baby! Sign up for our monthly newsletter.
– Dr. EeVon Ling, ND, YDD Doula and Sleep Consultant
Expectant parents can easily get caught up in getting all the things for their baby. When thinking about what you’ll need in preparing for baby, the item of consideration should answer the following question:
“How is this going to make my life EASIER as a parent?”
(Yes, yes, developmental benefits for your baby are important too, but the reality is that babies, especially newborns, need very few things outside of diapers, clothing, food, a safe place to sleep and YOU).
When working with expectant families, I am of the mindset of making things easier for the parents (because raising a baby is very hard work!) and this should extend to arranging the home so it can maximize sleep for everyone.
Here are my top tips to help prepare your home for sleep with your new baby:
Have various safe options of where a baby can sleep.
Your baby can sleep anywhere, it does not have to be in a bedroom. Having alternative sleep locations gives you flexibility. If your home has several rooms or different levels, having these options could also be safer because your baby can always be near you.
Here are some suggestions:
Pack-n-play (also called a playard)
Bassinet for stroller
Baby box (on the floor) with a mat that fits tightly on the bottom
Empty laundry basket (on the floor) with a mat that fits tightly on the bottom
Floor mat or floor mattress in the middle of the room away from the wall and other furniture and pets.
Having on-the-go options are particularly useful:
Age appropriate carrier (with head support and you should be able to see the baby’s airways while being carried)
Stroller that lies flat or has a bassinet (could be used indoors too)
**A safe sleep location is one where the baby can lie flat on their back, there is no risk of falling out, getting entrapped in a tight space or being strangled or suffocated, and there are no blankets, loose fabric, stuffies or very soft surfaces (these can all pose as suffocation risks). There are many things that parents use for baby that are not considered safe (such as swings, dock-a-tot, baby bouncer, car seat, any surface that is very soft or that is inclined etc). If you are using such things, it is important that your baby is supervised by an awake adult.
Have alternative places for the other parent to sleep.
Here are some suggestions:
A couch that converts into a bed (such as futon sofa or pull-out couch, or at least a couch with a firm base of cushions long enough for an adult to sleep comfortably on for many nights)
A twin sized mattress for the floor (If you think you’ll use it regularly, it should be a proper mattress versus a blow-up mattress or cot.) The mattress can later be used by the child when they are older. It can also be moved around as needed.
This suggestion of a separate sleeping place usually surprises (even shocks) many families. Some feel it’s “unfair” if one of them (usually the dad or non-breastfeeding parent) gets to sleep while mom has to stay up all night with the baby. It’s only unfair if the sleepless parent is also expected to take care of the rest of the house and family at full capacity. The intention here is that the fully rested parent can do all the other house chores while the exhausted parent (usually mom or the breastfeeding parent) only has to focus on resting and feeding the baby.
It is also my belief that 1 fully rested parent is better than 2 very exhausted parents.
I am going to fully disclose what we did after we had our first baby. Our first born child was a terrible sleeper (a-breastfeeding-waking-every-hour-terrible-kind-of-sleeper). We initially all slept in the same room. But my husband has a fundamental need for more sleep than me. He also had a job that required his full alert attention. And he was fully hands on with taking care of our dog and housework. So, we made the decision of buying a futon couch for the living room and he would sleep there full-time for nearly 4 years (we had 2 children). This was the best decision for us. At the very least, we had a proper extra bed for anyone to sleep on if needed (for a while we switched when the second baby arrived, and I slept out on the futon in the living room with the baby sleeping in the stroller bassinet next to me). Having these options is what saved us, especially living as a family of 4 in a 700sq ft condo.
Now, even as I’ve made these suggestions, I don’t advise that you immediately run out and buy a bunch of new stuff. In fact, you can wait and see how it goes after the baby is born. Keep these suggestions in the back of your mind in case you need a solution.
Many new parents assume that breastfeeding is instinctive. This might have been true once, when children saw their mothers and aunts and friends of the family feeding their babies regularly and in public. Now, breastfeeding is stigmatized and parents are made to cover up or move to a less visible location. Not only is this a terrible experience for new parents, it also means that many have no idea where to start when it comes to breastfeeding. So, let’s start with some basic baby facts and move on from there.
Things to remember about breastfeeding baby
The breast crawl: On their own, your newborn baby will crawl to the breast and begin to root. This is a completely natural process and is guided by your baby’s sense of smell. Your baby will do this in their own time and there is no need to rush.
Early Skin to Skin: The best way to ensure a smooth transition to breastfeeding is to allow immediate skin to skin contact between you and your baby. This will give your baby the opportunity to calm their nervous system, bond with you and get hungry!
Know your cues: Your baby will give you lots of cues to tell you they are hungry before they start to cry. These could include bringing their hands to their face, making sucking motions with their mouth or moving their tongue.
The magic of colostrum: In the first few days your body makes an ultra-nutritious substance called colostrum. It is more dense than breastmilk so you will produce less of it, this is totally ok! Your milk will naturally come in over the course of the next few days.
Your new baby has a tiny tummy: Newborns have small stomachs, with very little space, they fill up quickly and empty quickly. This means that in the first few days your baby will eat very frequently! Don’t worry, in a few days the feedings will spread out.
No “right” feeding schedule: Feed your baby when they show signs of being hungry, this could be every 30 minutes or every 3 hours. A newborn infant will not cry looking for comfort.
Just like there is no “right” feeding schedule, there is no “right” position in which to feed your baby. The most important this is that you are comfortable and your baby’s latch is good. But, there are some guiding principles that you can use to ensure that both of these things happen.
A Really Good Latch
Support your baby at the base of their head and shoulders to allow their head to gently tilt back (think the position you would put your head in to chug a drink)
Wait until your baby has a wide open mouth to try to latch, you can encourage them to do this by running your nipple along their upper lip
Your nipple should be aimed at the back roof of your baby’s mouth
Lead your baby to your breast, not the other way around
The latch should be asymmetric, which means your baby’s nose should be pointing away from your breast and their chin should be in towards your breast and more of your areola should be exposed on the top of your baby’s mouth than underneath it
There should be no pain
Allow your baby to come off the breast on their own
Offer the other side once they come off one breast, or if they are fussy at one breast, you can switch sides as much as needed and don’t need to “finish” at one breast in order to start the other one
Really Good Drinking
It’s important to learn the difference between sucking and drinking. This will come more easily with practice, but in essence you are looking for frequent pauses in their chin as they let their mouths fill with milk. Mouth open. Pause. Mouth close.
Barriers to breastfeeding
Many people struggle with breastfeeding, the two most important things to remember:
Your most important job is to feed your baby, however that looks. This doesn’t make you a bad parent
Certain perinatal procedures can make initiating breastfeeding more challenging. These procedures include the use of narcotic pain medication, IV fluids administered during labour and general anesthetic.
A poor latch can make breastfeeding painful and this makes it much more difficult. It may just be the mechanics of the latch or there may be an underlying issue such as a tongue tie or a lip tie, these can be diagnosed by your paediatrician or a lactation consultant. Remember that breastfeeding should not be painful.
External factors can also make breastfeeding difficult. Social pressures and feeling that you shouldn’t breastfeed in certain places may make you feel self-conscious. Remember that you are legally allowed to breastfeed anywhere that you are legally allowed to be. Returning to work can also cause stress. It is possible to work with employers to find you a place to pump and store milk while you are at work. In Ontario, employers are legally required to give you these things.
Start your breastfeeding journey off right with our FREE Breastfeeding Basics Handout. Grab it here!
What to do if you’re having trouble breastfeeding
If you are having issues, there are a few things you can do to trouble shoot. The first is to look at your latch, check out the info above, is your baby’s nose far away from your breast and your nipple deep in their mouth? See if you can adjust your latch and if that results in less pain and better drinking. If you are satisfied with your latch, and your still concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough, you can try using breast compressions as outlined below.
Finally, there is lots of help, lactation consultants are amazing at their jobs and there are many practicing in Toronto. If you gave birth at a hospital you may even have access to free breastfeeding clinics. You can also check out the International Breastfeeding Centre website for excellent videos and handouts to help you troubleshoot.
The biggest piece of advise I can give is not to wait. If you are having trouble, don’t suffer through it alone, there is lots of support.
As mentioned, if you are having trouble getting your baby to drink well and you are satisfied that the latch is good, you may want to try using breast compressions. They can be used to increase the speed of milk flow. During a feeding you can use breast compressions when you notice your baby has stopped drinking and is mostly nibbling.
Hold your baby with one arm
With the other hand take hold of your breast, close to your chest wall and away from your baby’s mouth
Apply pressure and hold
Keep the pressure until your baby starts sucking/drinking again
Release the pressure if your baby stops drinking again
Repeat until your baby doesn’t drink even with the compressions
You may have to experiment with how these work best for you. The International Breastfeeding Centre has a great handout and videos on this too.
This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.
The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year. But with a new baby in the post pandemic world, the holidays can be downright stressful. Between navigating your newborn and trying to decide what events to attend, you’re also worried about you or them getting sick.
As a Naturopathic Doctor and board certified lactation consultant, parents often come to me with concerns at this time of the year. Things like “can I have a drink or two at this holiday party?” or “how do I reduce the risk of my baby getting sick?” So, I’ve put together my top tips for navigating the holiday season with a newborn baby!
Attending parties and events.
First and foremost, don’t feel pressure to attend anything. You’ve just had a baby, your primary job is to rest and recover. Pairing down the expectations on yourself can make things a lot more manageable. It’s also totally okay to cancel last minute if you’ve had a rough day or if baby is having an especially hard time.
But, if you have something you’re looking forward to going to, it can be a refreshing change of pace! Just take it easy on yourself. Don’t expect to stay the whole time and be ready to bail quickly if you need to.
Expect that baby will get over stimulated, especially if they’re getting lots of attention. Busy environments can make feeding them less efficient. You may find that they are hungry more frequently or that they make up for it by cluster feeding after the event. If you’re visiting family or friends, it can be helpful to have a quiet room to feed and change your baby in- ask about this before you go!
Parents are often worried about people holding and kissing their newborns. And rightly so. I highly recommend wearing your baby. A soft wrap can be easy to get them in and out of and isn’t super bulky for you. It will take some practice before hand but there’s so much benefit to this.
Baby will feel safe and secure close to you, even in a crowded environment
People might come up to baby in a stroller or a bassinet, but they probably won’t get their face right up into your face to see your baby
It’s easier on your body than holding them in your arms the whole time
Be choosy about who can hold your baby and don’t feel bad saying no, you can always say that baby has been having a rough day and you’d rather no one hold them! If there are people that you’d like to see your baby, make sure they wash their hands first and that everyone knows not to kiss them.
If you are worried about a potential exposure, nursing is your best friend. Your body makes immune factors to help baby fight off anything in the environment. The trick is, this communication happens through your gut, you need to get those germs into your mouth (weird, I know). But, the easiest way to do this is by kissing your baby! That way, any germs that they have on their face get into your body and your milk can start making immune factors.
This is one of the most common questions I get postpartum- “Can I enjoy a drink now that baby is born?”. The answer is yes, you can!
Alcohol gets into human milk in the same amounts as it’s in your blood. That means that if you’re at the legal driving limit your blood contains about 0.05% alcohol. If you feed your baby, they will then metabolize that alcohol, so the amount that gets into their blood is very very small.
You don’t have to pump and dump either. As alcohol leaves your blood, it will also leave your milk. Pumping doesn’t make this happen any faster.
In general, when it comes to alcohol, if you can drive you can nurse. And, if you’re ever unsure, you can always wait an hour and then nurse.
One more tip- if you can get the timing right. The best time to nurse is while you’re having the drink. It takes about 20 minutes for your blood alcohol levels to start to rise, and then your baby will hopefully have a longer stretch while you’re digestive system does its work.
Are you preparing for your best possible birth?
Keep up to date on all things pregnancy, birth and baby! Sign up for our monthly newsletter.
You are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t take a prenatal class.
(I know that sounds harsh, but this is too important of a topic to tiptoe around.)
I know what you’re thinking: “Well of course you would say that, you teach prenatal classes!” True! But, why do I teach them?
Because I truly believe that a GOOD prenatal class is the #1, (yes, NUMBER 1) factor that leads to improved satisfaction surrounding birth. And I’d argue satisfaction with your birth experience is pretty important.
Here’s why this really matters:
About 1 in 4 people who have given birth in the UK, and 1 in 3 in the US, describe their birth as traumatic. (Unfortunately, we don’t have stats in Canada). Not just hard, not just tiring, long or painful, but TRAUMATIC. The birth of your baby should not be a traumatic experience! Even if there are unexpected circumstances, you should not come away from your birth feeling traumatized. It has always been my goal to reduce this statistic.
Knowing this, It honestly shocked me to learn that only 50% of pregnant families in the GTA take prenatal classes. But, I understand why this happens.
You’ve been told childbirth is unpredictable and the doctor will “tell you what to do”.
Yes, birth is unpredictable. And yes, your doctor can tell you what to do, but is this how you want to experience birth? In an effective prenatal class you learn techniques that help you cope with the marathon that labour can be. Being prepared means you have the tools and skills to cope, even when unexpected things arise. Each birth is indeed a unique and individual experience, and yet, there is a benefit to knowing what to generally expect and what to do. Even explorers had a compass to navigate unknown lands.
Your OB is definitely an important resource but they don’t arrive until the baby is literally ready to be born. Unless there are complications. (I like to say a birth is going well when you barely see the OB). You will have some assistance from the nurse but their primary role is to perform regular medical checks of you and the baby. Your birth is likely to progress normally, which means you and your partner are largely on your own: first labouring at home, then making your way to the hospital, then waiting in triage to be assessed, and then continuing in the labour and delivery room.
It is very possible that some of the recommendations from your nurses and even your OB will not be evidence based. Many things are simply hospital policy or individual bias of the care provider. Did you know that on average it takes about 20 years (yup) for policy to catch up to current evidence. The unfortunate reality is that the onus is on you to come armed with knowledge, questions and the ability to advocate for yourself and your baby.
“I’m going to get an epidural, so I don’t need to prepare or learn coping skills”
In the movies: Water breaks. Rush to hospital. Get an epidural. Aaah, relief.
In reality: Early labour may last days. You get to the hospital triage and wait for a long time before getting assessed. Hopefully you didn’t arrive too early (or you’ll be waiting some more). Eventually you get to your labouring room and you request an epidural. If it’s a busy time (labour and delivery is the busiest place in the hospital), you may be waiting up to a couple hours more. Very occasionally, the epidural doesn’t work. Or, your labour is progressing so quickly that there is no time to get an epidural.
No one seems to tell you that you may be in labour for a long time before you get an epidural. So if getting an epidural is your only “coping” mechanism, you’ll be in for a rough ride.
Learning comfort measures and relaxation exercises for labour and birth is not just for those wanting a natural birth. Learning these things gives you tools you can use in any birth situation which increases your chance for a positive birth experience.
“I’ve heard that hospital classes are not very useful.”
“I can’t find one that works with my schedule”.
“I’d rather have just the information that applies to me and my birthing situation and preferences”
I get it, you have access to all the information you could ever dream of on the internet. However, it takes time to filter through all of it and do you even know what to look for? If you’ve never given birth before, how will you know what “method” to learn? What if someone who has supported many families in a range of birth situations was able to teach you the inside tips and tricks to help you feel calm and confident during labour and birth. Yes, being calm and confident during childbirth is entirely possible! In fact I believe that every pregnant person DESERVES to be calm and confident during this very important life changing event!
If group classes and their schedules don’t work for you – consider a private prenatal program. I’ve noticed that clients seem to get more out of private classes because I’m able to individualize information. Clients also love that the classes are scheduled around their convenience.
Birth has basically been a terrifying mystery your whole life.
I remember the initial joy I had when learning about birth in medical school. I finally understood what goes on, from implantation, pregnancy and birth. It resonated with me, my intuition, it was normal – I didn’t have to be afraid of it. My education empowered me. However, the joy was quickly followed by frustration. Why did it take a medical degree to learn this, why didn’t I know in my prime “child bearing age” anything about birth outside of the dramatized ER births on television.
Most people are very afraid of giving birth, and don’t really want to think about it. But knowledge truly is power. If you understand what you body is doing during labour, how the muscles work, how your baby is working with you then you can learn how to work with your body and not against it.
Ok, so prenatal classes are essential for a positive birth experience. But how do you figure out which class to take? Not all classes are equal – do your research. For your convenience I’ve created the following checklist:
Will your prenatal class include ALL of the following?
-Ends when you are 37 weeks pregnant or earlier
-Teaches and practices in-class practical relaxation exercises that you can use
during labour (helpful for after birth too!)
-Teaches your partner how to be a GREAT birthing partner
-Covers stages of labour and birth from a non-fear based approach
-Covers the birth plan in an evidence-based approach so you feel educated and empowered about what to expect and how to manage labour and childbirth
-Includes a workbook with exercises to help you prepare mentally and emotionally
-Includes additional resources such as audio recordings, videos and props
-Allows you to contact the instructor directly in case you have any questions or concerns
-Treats birth as a physical and emotional experience and not simply a textbook reading assignment.
-Celebrates the miracle and power of pregnancy and childbirth!
Yes, that’s right, I’d rather you take ANY prenatal class, even if it’s not mine.
However, I and another birth-loving ND’s and doula colleagues, have created our Confident Birth Prenatal Program specifically from our experiences as mothers who have given birth, and as doulas who have supported birthing families. From our many years working in this area, we observed and listened. The result? A prenatal program that meets all the criteria above. And as the name implies, you WILL feel more confident and prepared for childbirth.
I want families to feel empowered, calm and confident. Getting educated and having resources helps. I teach and work with families because I LOVE sharing all the wonderful, interesting, mind-blowing things that your body does in labour and how you can help it do its job easier.
We’re so passionate about helping families get a positive start to parenthood through positive birth we offer not just one but two different prenatal programs!
Is my partner truly prepared to help me in childbirth?
Do a quick google or amazon search on “childbirth preparation” you will get a list of results that are overwhelmingly geared towards you, the pregnant person. You might notice that there are very few books written that would help prepare your partner for childbirth.
Why is this a problem for me?
How you are cared for and supported during childbirth affects how you give birth and how you feel about it. How you feel about your birth experience can also influence how you feel about your own ability in being a mother as well as affect your chance of developing postpartum depression and anxiety. Knowing this, it’s pretty clear that ongoing emotional and physical support during the very transformative experience of birth is of the utmost importance.
What about a doula?
A doula is a person who provides continuous and on-going emotional, physical and informational support for the labouring person. It has been shown that doulas help to reduce the rates of interventions, including epidural use and c-sections and help to increase reported satisfaction in birth experience. In other words, having a doula increases the chance of having HEALTHY AND HAPPY parent and baby.
But what if I can’t have a doula?
Not everyone can access a doula. Even though having doulas would actually reduce health costs, increase positive outcomes and would be a good basic addition to any healthcare system, hiring a doula is not possible for everyone.
At the time of this writing, COVID-19 virus (simply referred to as coronavirus) is emerging as a global and local public health concern that is resulting in changes in hospital policies. Hospitals are restricting the number of people who can attend births, in some cases reducing it to only one person, usually just your partner. As a doula, when I attend births, the more support the birther can receive, the better their experience. Sometimes, in addition to their partner and me (their doula), their own mother and/ or a friend will be there too. So this change in policy can greatly impact your birth experience and well-being.
How should my partner best prepare to support me?
Here are some tips to help your partner be your “doula”:
Communication! Be honest about your fears around childbirth and be honest about your partner’s strengths and weaknesses in handling high stress situations. Play up those strengths and how they can be best used to help you during labour and childbirth
Take a high quality prenatal class that focuses on teaching techniques and skills that your partner can use to help you during labour and childbirth. We at Your Downtown Doula offer theConfident Birth Prenatal Class for a comprehensive approach to help you feel relaxed and confident during childbirth and labour.
Labour at home for as long as possible. If the concerns around infection still exist at the time of your childbirth, then reducing your hospital stay is a good idea. Your partner can help you with relaxation, help distract you, do massage and attend to your basic needs. Doing most of your labouring at home can also reduce unnecessary interventions.
A great book for partners is Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner. It is specific to doulas and partners and contains very comprehensive information.
Want to learn more about our Confident Birth Prenatal Program?
Real talk, the pregnant body is a weird place to live. Your skin stretches in ways you have no control over. You leak, if you’re lucky it’s just increased vaginal discharge and colostrum. If you’re unlucky it’s peeing a bit when you sneeze. Sometimes you sleep, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you wake up so stiff that you wonder if you’ve been in a brawl and just don’t remember. To say the least, it’s a lot to get used to. At 32 weeks pregnant, I’m right in the middle of the third trimester, and the pregnancy weirdness is in full swing.
It’s become obvious to me that self care is extremely important, now more than ever. The more I take care of myself, the more comfortable I am with my ever changing body, the more I feel connected to my baby, and the more excited I get about giving birth. So, I wanted to share with you my top 5 favourite self care practices for pregnancy.
1. Positive Self Talk
I’m putting this one first and foremost, because you can’t do any of these other practices without speaking to yourself in a loving voice. Remember that you’re growing a human being! I’ve found it helpful to reframe the changes I’m noticing. For example, instead of thinking that the veins I’ve noticed in my legs are ugly, I remind myself that I have about one and a half times more blood than I used to and my body is working to accommodate it. Plus, how cool is it that my body was able to make all that extra blood to nourish my baby.
2. Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a simple technique used to increase circulation to your skin and promote lymphatic drainage. Using a coarse bristle brush, and light strokes, you brush from your extremities towards your heart. You can find a tutorial here. I love doing this right before hopping into the shower because my skin feels super soft afterwards and it gives me an opportunity to pay attention to every part of my body and notice how it’s changing. It’s also possible that it may help decrease your chances of getting stretch marks, so that’s a bonus.
Just remember, you’re body is doing a lot right now. You should be impressed!
Dr. Sarah Winward
3. Self Massage
I’ve added this as part of my shower routine as well, and it doesn’t have to be super complicated. I just take some extra time applying moisturizer, I use coconut oil, after I shower. I usually give my belly, thighs and hips a bit of extra love using a circular motion and light touch. Again, I love this because it gives me time to see how my body is changing. But it also means that I am touching myself with my own hands, getting comfortable with what feels different. This is another opportunity to be really loving to your body, and appreciate everything that it’s able to do to sustain a new life.
4. Spending Time Naked
I’ve done this 2 ways. The first is that my shower routine has gotten longer, so I am spending more time naked with myself then. I also take some time to do yoga in the mornings. The mornings work for me because I’m not sleeping well (surprise, surprise) so I’m usually up much earlier than the rest of my house. I can get in a 20 minute prenatal flow without being interrupted. And I have been choosing to do this naked. Yoga is amazing because it connects you with your breath. It brings you into the present moment and it reminds you to be in your body without judgement. I’ve been enjoying this one, but there are tons out there that are free to access. I love this practice because it is super gentle, it reminds you to put your hands on your belly and to connect with your baby. Being comfortable at least partially naked will become important, because after your baby is born the best place they can be is skin to skin with you, you can find out more about that here. The more comfortable you are, the more you’ll want to hang out skin to skin, and the better for both you and your baby.
I have been lifting weights for years. So, it was natural for me to want to continue into my pregnancy. Although, I did take a bit of a break during the most exhausting parts of the first trimester. As long as you’ve been given the ok by your care provider it is safe to continue most exercises through pregnancy. But, it is important to check in. How do you feel while your doing it? How do you feel after? I love lifting because it really shows you what your body is capable of, you can see your own strength. But, you can also see how things shift. I stopped doing pushups at around 25 weeks and started doing wall pushups because I didn’t feel like I could maintain good form. I’ve recently started feeling the same about deadlifts. And that’s ok, because my core is shifting to accommodate a tiny person.
In my second trimester, I also started attending prenatal exercise classes. I highly recommend this because it gives you a chance to connect with other pregnant people. And you get solid guidance from fitness professionals who specialize in pregnancy and postpartum, so they can help you modify appropriately when you need to.
Just remember, you’re body is doing a lot right now. You should be impressed! Take the time to thank your body and take care of it.
This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.
It depends. On a lot of factors. Let’s break this down in an easy way. Take a few minutes and ask yourself the following questions:
What is important to you in your birth experience?
Do you have a birth companion?
What kind of support do you expect from your birth companion?
Are they capable of giving your that support?
Do they have the tools and knowledge to support you?
If you answered YES to #2 but NO to #4 and #5.
You *might* be able to get away without a doula if you take a prenatal class that focuses on educating you and your birth companion on coping techniques, how to use them in labour, and common interventions – for example our Confident Birth Program. You may find that your birth companion may be enough, armed with the information they have learned to help you with your answer in #1.
If you answered YES to #2, #4, #5 you may decide to still work with a doula for one of the following reasons:
I understand that my labour may be longer, and I value the idea of my partner being able to rest so that they may help me more after baby is born.
My partner feels anxiety regarding whether they can be whatever I need them to be/remember it all etc, so it would be good to have knowledgeable and comforting help in addition.
(*Research has shown that the most positive birth experiences for fathers were ones where they had continuous support by a doula or a midwife.)
I know that statistics show that moms have better birth experiences and less medical interventions when a doula is present
(*Although continuous support can also be offered by birth partners, midwives, nurses, or even some physicians, research has shown that with some outcomes, doulas have a stronger effect than other types of support persons.)
I desire a low-intervention and/or no-intervention labour and understand the skill set and assistance a birth doula provides can support those goals even further then I can alone, or solely with my birth companion.
I experience anxiety with hospitals, medical equipment, etc.
I understand a birth doula may have other areas of help and support that they can share with me to smooth my transition into parenthood. (For example, Lactation Support)
I feel birth is more than just a biological event, and would like to work with someone who treats it more holistically.
If you answered NO to #2, I would highly recommend a doula.